Monday, December 21, 2009

A Broken Chamber


Paul Krugman sees the harbinger of a terminally ill body upon looking at the Senate.  So do I.  The level of dysfunction due to the antidemocratic power structures that rule the chamber - in plain sight - have peaked since Republicans became the minority in 2006.  The filibuster is now used to threaten roughly 70% of legislation.  Any time the minority party wants to throw a wrench in the democratic process they have taken to it, without castigation from the public for choking majority rule.  It is no matter that they are currently outnumbered by 150%, the minority now wields kill-power without fearing reprisal.  The filibuster has become a given tactic on virtually every piece of legislation.

Of course it has - if the majority were to pass a good bill that was efficient and improved conditions for the American public, they would be rewarded electorally for governing effectively.  So as long as there are no public rebukes, it will always be in the political interest of the minority to derail any potential progress brought by the majority.  Regarding the healthcare bill, and last nights cloture vote, Krugman warns:

"the fact that it was such a close thing shows that the Senate — and, therefore, the U.S. government as a whole — has become ominously dysfunctional.  After all, Democrats won big last year, running on a platform that put health reform front and center.  In any other advanced democracy this would have given them the mandate and the ability to make major changes.  But the need for 60 votes to cut off Senate debate and end a filibuster — a requirement that appears nowhere in the Constitution, but is simply a self-imposed rule — turned what should have been a straightforward piece of legislating into a nail-biter.  And it gave a handful of wavering senators extraordinary power to shape the bill.  

Now consider what lies ahead.  We need fundamental financial reform.  We need to deal with climate change.  We need to deal with our long-run budget deficit.  What are the chances that we can do all that — or, I’m tempted to say, any of it — if doing anything requires 60 votes in a deeply polarized Senate?"

We, the most powerful democratic nation, are watching the machinery of government breakdown to the pace of, well, a filibuster.

Here fo the full article.

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